that what I was doing was a form of practical philosophy. For the first time I understood the speed of light as not just a part of a formula by Einstein. I suddenly could see how the signal struggles through the wires, how it gets mangled, how matter and energy combat each other. When we saw an early laser from Bell Labs brought to an artist's loft in Manhattan, we were amazed by the physicality of these phenomena. It was an experiential and practical philosophy. All of the ideas of composing through non-traditional means came from the machines.
S.V. Philosophy or media theory was never directly connected to what I wanted to do. My background is in music, which as a medium exists only in time. This gave me the entry into video, an understanding of composition in time.
W.V. There was another great issue here: the hallucinogens and what resulted in the establishment of the "new aesthetic norm". Before these experiences I had only art to refer to, but suddenly there was something that actually performed profound transformations of perception: interactively, aurally, visually, and tangibly, something that art could only suggest. Sound could influence image and image could influence movement. I recall watching television snow synthesize images that I had never seen before. I can still remember them. It was a great teacher. I could never figure out why the mandala was so attractive until I saw the first video feedback. This was all a magnificent cultural opportunity.
C.C. Besides all this, you said yesterday that a work of art must not illustrate an idea. And then speaking about the way you were working together and independently, the idea that you are playing with things. Could you go through this?
S.V. There is a danger in being infatuated with an "idea" and then trying to impose it upon the material. Fortunately the material has a way of confronting you: "This is not very interesting, but let me show you something else." If you are alert, you can drop all preconceptions and catch that moment. You enter this dialogue and end up with something completely different from what you intended to do.
D.F. One of the things I tried to lay out in my book was a series of phases that I have seen in video and other technologies that artists have used. Where the first phase is the playful phase, where they play with the machines. Basically as a way of learning, trying to figure out what it is all about, getting into it. And then the second phase comes in like kind of a mastery of it. You begin really to turn into what you wanted to be. And then the third phase comes in, which is I think the most important phase, where you start building machines yourself because you are dissatisfied with the limitations of the technology.
W.V. I think you are getting dangerously close to what could be called the notion of craft. We know what confusion this brought to the Moderns. I have
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